Cayetano formally elected as House Speaker, vows to ‘do what is right’

Robie de Guzman   •   July 22, 2019   •   902

MANILA, Philippines – Members of the House of Representatives have formally elected Taguig-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano as their next leader when the regular session of the 18th Congress opened on Monday (July 22).

With a vote of 266, Cayetano defeated his lone opponent for Speaker, Manila Representative Bienvenido “Benny” Abante who only received 28 votes.

Two solons abstained while one voted “no” to either nominations.

During the election, Cayetano was nominated by his former speakership rivals, Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco, Leyte Representative Martin Romualdez and Davao City Representative Paolo Duterte.

Abante was nominated by Iloilo Representative Janet Garin and AKO BICOL party-list Representative Alfredo Garbin.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier endorsed Cayetano’s bid for speakership, who will share the term with Velasco. The president proposed that Cayetano lead the House for 15 months and be succeeded by Velasco for the remaining 21 months.

Cayetano vowed to uphold the term-sharing agreement.

“Sana po ako’y maging worthy at sana po ay tulungan niyo ako para sa loob ng 15 na buwan ay mapagsilbihan po natin ang ating mga kababayang Mabuti,” he said in his speech after his election.

(I hope to be worthy and I hope you will help me during the 15 months to serve our people well.)

The newly-elected speaker also assured that the House of Representatives, under his helm, will be a partner of the Duterte administration.

“The House of Representatives, the House of the People are partners with the Duterte administration,” he said.

“We are partners in pursuing a better life for all Filipinos, whether we talk about teachers, about senior citizens, about young people, OFWs, professionals, our teachers, government workers, workers in the private sectors, or out-of-school youth, rich or poor, young or old, of whatever persuasion, of whatever religion, we are all connected and united,” he elaborated.

Aside from his assurance to remain as the Duterte administration’s ally, Cayetano also called on House members to unite and to do what is right.

“Tayo po ang takbuhan ng sambayanan. We will do what is right, so that we will have a Congress that is relevant, responsive and reliable… United and we commit to God, our people the work of the 18th Congress,” he said.

Still in line with the president’s endorsement, Romualdez was elected on Monday as House Majority Leader.

Meanwhile, Presidential son, Paolo was elected as one of the 11 deputy speakers of the House of Representatives along with Representatives Ferdinand Hernandez, Evelina Escudero, Loren Legarda, Conrad Estrella III, Prospero Pichay Jr., Roberto Puno, Eduardo Villanueva, Aurelio Gonzales Jr., Johnny Pimentel and Luis Raymond Villafuerte.

Davao City 3rd District Representative Isidro Ungab was elected as chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations while Cavite Representative Abraham Tolentino was voted as chairman of the Committee on Accounts.

The lower House also elected Jose Luis Montales as Secretary General and Retired Gen. Ramon Apolinario as Sergeant-at-Arms.

The election for Speakership inside the House Plenary hall this year did not have any ruckus compared to last year after House members ousted then-speaker, Davao del Norte Representative Pantaleon Alvarez and replaced him with then-Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Last year’s Speakership squabble delayed Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address by an hour.

House eyes holding marathon 2020 budget hearings

Robie de Guzman   •   August 22, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is eyeing to hold marathon sessions for the immediate passage of the P4.1-trillion proposed national budget for 2020, House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said.

In a statement, Romualdez said House members have agreed to work day and night from Monday to Friday to ensure that the 2020 General Appropriations Act will be approved by October this year.

“This will give the Senate ample time to scrutinize the budget approved by the House. Hopefully we can have a bicameral conference by early December, then approve the 2020 national budget before the year ends,” he said.

The House Committee on Appropriations, headed by Davao City 3rd District Rep. Isidro Ungab, has started on Thursday the deliberations on the 2020 budget bill with a briefing of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC), the inter-agency panel that sets the overall economic targets, expenditure levels and budget of the government.

READ: House begins 2020 budget hearings

By September 12, Romualdez said the lower chamber would hold sessions on Thursdays and Fridays, past the regular schedule of Monday to Wednesday.

He added that the plenary session was also moved from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. to give way to four budget hearings scheduled by the Committee on Appropriations.

“We will hold four budget hearings daily at the committee level almost simultaneously. The hearings are scheduled at 9 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.,” Romualdez said.

“House members may have to shuttle between hearings in order to maximize their participation in the budget deliberations. I am thankful that all the House members agreed to this schedule, which is really a tall order,” he added.

The lawmaker said he had also approved the request of Ungab to allow the holding of committee hearings on the budget even after the plenary proceedings have started at 5 p.m.

“This means that the appropriations committee may hold budget hearings at the committee level simultaneous with the plenary debates on other pending bills and resolutions,” Romualdez said.

“This will ensure that plenary deliberations on other pending issues, such as the vital revenue measures, will push through even as we are working round the clock on the budget bill,” he added.

Under Section 71 of the House Rules, congressmen are deemed present in a House session if they are attending committee meetings authorized by the House committee on rules, which is currently chaired by Romualdez as Majority Leader.

Section 35 of the House Rules, on the other hand, provides that: “Only the committee on rules and such committees to which it has granted permission, may meet while the House is in plenary session, has adjourned, or is in recess.”

Romualdez said that under these rules, the committee on appropriations “may continue with their budget hearings while the House is in plenary session.

“We are invoking the powers of the Majority Leader, as Rules Chairman, to enable the House to tackle simultaneously all the vital measures included in the President’s legislative agenda,” he said.

Congressmen to donate part of their salaries for Batanes quake victims

Robie de Guzman   •   July 30, 2019

Photo by Dominic de Sagon Asa

MANILA, Philippines – Members of the House of Representatives are looking to raise some money to help the victims of twin earthquakes that rattled Batanes over the weekend.

In a statement issued on Tuesday (July 30), House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said leaders of the lower chamber have agreed to kick off a fund drive for the relief operations in Batanes, and urged their colleagues to donate a portion of their salary.

Each lawmaker is expected to contribute a minimum of P5,000 from his or her salary. The House, which has 300 members, is expected to raise at least P1.5 million or higher.

Aside from the monetary contribution, Romualdez said some congressmen have also expressed interest in donating relief goods collected from their staff and other House employees.

“It (contribution) has been the practice whenever a district is hard-hit by a calamity, in this case Batanes. This voluntary effort on the part of the congressmen to contribute has been done in the past through salary deduction. This has been initiated for the benefit of the casualties’ loved ones and injured residents of Batanes,” said Romualdez.

During a session on Monday, the House of Representatives adopted Resolution No. 139 expressing its “profound sympathies” and “deepest condolences” to those affected by the twin temblors that jolted Batanes.

The resolution also called on the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and other relevant organizations to expedite humanitarian assistance and restore normalcy to the affected areas.

The resolution was authored by Speaker Alan Cayetano, Romualdez, and House Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante, Jr.

A manifestation was also made before the plenary about the “signature sheet” that shall be circulated for House members so they can write the amount of their voluntary contribution.

Last Saturday, nine people were killed and 63 others were injured when strong earthquakes hit Itbayat town in Batanes. President Rodrigo Duterte earlier promised to give P40 million to help reconstruct its local hospital damaged by earthquakes.

Sara, Baste Duterte to skip father’s fourth SONA

Robie de Guzman   •   July 18, 2019

(L-R) Davao City Vice Mayor Sebastian “Baste” Duterte and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio

MANILA, Philippines – Two of President Rodrigo Duterte’s children will not be attending this year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) slated on the afternoon of July 22 (Monday).

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and her brother, Davao City Vice Mayor Sebastian “Baste” Duterte, in separate press statements, said they will be missing the event at the Batasang Pambansa.

Sara said she is on a 60-day medical leave.

“It’s a gyne (gynecological) condition,” she said in a text message to reporters.

Meanwhile, Baste said he would have to attend the regular session of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Davao.

The presidential son added he would just stay in the city and watch the event on television.

“Ako dili ko maka-attend ug SONA kay naa man gud tay session sa Tuesday ana so murag kapoy na pud nga mubalik pa ko ug sayo diri sa buntag so diri na lang ko, tan-aw na lang ko sa TV,” Baste said in a press briefing.

(I won’t be attending the SONA because we will have a session on Tuesday. It would be tiring for me to travel back to Davao early in the morning from Manila. So, I will just stay here, I’ll watch the event on TV.)

On the other hand, their eldest brother, Davao City 1st District Representative Paolo Duterte is expected to be present at the ceremony as he will attend the opening of the regular session of the 18th Congress on the morning of July 22.  

Last year, all members of the Duterte family were present during the gathering.

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